Posts tagged ‘Ruby Wedding’
Five quilts down, one to go:
I have submitted my entry forms for the guild quilt show, now only a month away, and I am entering six quilts: Welcome Ronan, AKA Ronan’s Quilt; The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Dragons Galore, AKA Minkee Dragons; Halloween Buzz Saw; Spumoni Spring, AKA Pink and Brown; and the shop hop sampler quilt. That final one is still on the sewing table, still being quilted. BUT! It’s mostly complete, I know what I’m doing with the rest of it, and I already have the binding made. AND! The other five are completely finished, including hanging sleeves. I think that’s a personal best; I’m usually sewing on hanging sleeves into the wee hours of Wednesday morning before the show, when we have to bring our quilts to the fairgrounds.
So, back to Spumoni Spring. The title presented itself once I added that green:
The blocks are quilted in a Pam Clarke-inspired design, for which I used her Basic 8 stencil and a blue chalk pounce to just give me some temporary guidelines to work with. This was a really satisfying technique: no blue marker to wash out, but definitely more consistent results than I can achieve by just eyeballing it. The blue chalk was highly visible on all my fabrics, but it brushes off very quickly, so I couldn’t mark more than one block at a time. I was also trying to use as few thread starts and stops as possible. Therefore, as I prepared to enter each block, I had to use my big 16 1/2″ square plexiglass ruler as a table to slide under the quilt and give me a surface on which to mark my blue chalk asterisk. Not the most graceful technique in the world, but I’m not arguing with the finished product.
The two center vertical strippy borders were such a busy print that I knew nothing would show up, so I just echoed the print to create the appropriate quilting density. The two outer vertical strippy borders were not quite as busy, but with that large floral, I still didn’t want to exert myself particularly; if I’m going to do something fancy, I want to be able to see it! Therefore, I selected a design I’d been meaning to try: Onions and Garlic from Megan Best’s “Spinal Twist” book. It’s simple but creates a beautiful texture, which (like many of my favorite freehand designs) benefits from being somewhat imprecise. This is one I will definitely use again.
The outermost pinwheel border was the area I selected to get the least dense quilting design. I’ve mentioned before how I like Sue Patten‘s principle that a quilt should have three densities of quilting to create depth and contrast, the same way the top should have three values of fabric. Since this is definitely a lap/cuddle quilt, rather than a wall quilt, I thought having a nice soft poofy border where your face would go might work out well. We’ll see, because currently I feel like it needs something more. Oh well, it’s a learning experience! I just did a looping continuous curve variation, following the seam lines as if they were hourglass blocks:
In contrast, the densest quilting was in the green border, where I did one of Patsy Thompson‘s feather wave borders. I broke down and mail-ordered the 40″ flexible curve ruler, which made marking the spine VERY easy. I used a variegated pink thread from Fil-Tec that behaved beautifully; I will definitely be exploring more of their threads.
The binding seemed to need to be green as well, and I used a spare pinwheel block as the label. And after five years in the UFO box, it’s finished! It feels so good to be racking up a list of these. Of course, the next “Finished!” post will be about a new (though small) project that I’m taking to Show & Tell at guild tonight, and I’m already mentally making my challenge quilt for next fall, so the UFO completion rate will probably slip a bit in the near future. But at the same time, the confidence I’ve built over the last several projects is really encouraging me to take a deep breath and quilt Ruby Wedding. Now THAT would alleviate some quilt guilt and free up some brainspace!
This quilt’s happy dance really couldn’t be to any other song, and Gerard Darmon’s version of it for this video made me smile:
Turning the calendar page for September always seems to sneak up on me. I’ve been out of school for over a decade now, but the end of summer still carries with it a sigh and a plodding return to a less-fun routine. However, this year it also brings excitement: September is the month I go to Quilting with Machines!
Diane and I are returning attendees this year, having had an overwhelmingly good time at last year’s event. At first, I was disappointed to learn that the organizers were changing the time and the location for 2010, moving it further west and from October to September, but that was before I knew I’d be in my third trimester of pregnancy in fall 2010. Attending a machine quilting conference six-and-a-half hours away from home is much more doable at 32 weeks than at 36, when I’m no longer supposed to be more than an hour’s drive from the hospital. (I’ve been fortunate to have a very healthy and active pregnancy to this point, so I have no reason to expect drastic change in the next two to three weeks, but obviously I will be sensible and cautious.)
Last year, I didn’t really know what to expect. QwM started as a retreat for an Ohio longarm quilting guild and has grown over the years into a learning event for all forms of machine quilting. However, as a domestic machine quilter, I was concerned. Despite what the mission statement said on the website, what if the classes were far too longarm-specific? What if the teachers looked down on domestic machine quilters? What if I was wasting my time and money? Of course, all I wasted was a lot of worry. Although the teachers were all well-known longarm quilters, the designs, techniques, and thought processes they taught were applicable to any type of machine quilting.
I came back from the conference with my mind just buzzing with new techniques to try. As Sue Patten said in her Freemotion Freehand Possibilities lecture, “If you don’t go home and practice what you’ve learned, next year just mail me a check and stay home.” With that in mind, I’m trying to do as much machine quilting as possible leading up to this year’s event so that I am in the best possible mindset to absorb the information. I’ll be recently familiar with my biggest strengths and weaknesses in machine quilting, and thus be primed to learn, and ask when necessary, how best to overcome them.
To that purpose, I’ve been quilting as many tops as possible from my stash that were ready to quilt. This Noah’s Ark panel was a cheapie from JoAnn’s that I specifically bought because I didn’t care about it: I used it to test my idea for the addition of lattice strips for Window on Whimsey last summer, thinking that if it turned out decently, I’d quilt and donate it. Now that we’re having a baby, I’ll use it as a “tummy time” playmat for him.
In the Quilt Guilt corner, I’ve been holding on to my mom’s Halloween Attic Windows wallhanging forever. We took an Attic Windows class together at Smile Spinners probably 6-7 years ago (I know it was before I bought my Janome, and that was July 2004.) She made this absolutely charming wallhanging, using fabric that reminded us both of the Edward Gorey animation from the opening credits of Mystery! on PBS:
When I came across it in her sewing room a couple of years ago, still an unfinished top, I asked if I could quilt it for her. She agreed, saying, “no hurry.” This is not a good phrase to use on a quilting procrastinator like me. I’ve taken it to at least three guild retreats with the good intention of quilting it, to no avail. At least I made the positive step back in February to order a spool of Superior Threads NiteLite Extra Glow glow-in-the-dark thread to use on it, but it’s only since last weekend that I’ve actually made progress.
Once I’ve got the bindings on, and the label and sleeve on my mom’s quilt, I’ll post some detail pictures of the quilting. I did some playful experimenting on both, and am very happy with the results.
The third project is, of course, Matt and Alyssa’s wedding quilt. I’ve started quilting it and I like the virtually no-mark design I’ve chosen, but I’m having weird thread problems and becoming very frustrated. I’m using Superior Threads Bottom Line in a pale blue in both the top and bobbin, and while it is usually one of my favorites, I’ve been getting unexpected skipped stitches and having the thread “catch” on the needle. (To be fair, since I’ve used this particular cone of thread before without incident, this is more likely a machine problem manifesting due to the fineness of this thread, than an actual thread problem.) Following the advice on Superior’s excellent troubleshooting pages, I’ve mitigated these symptoms by adjusting my bobbin tension (eek!) and going up to a #90 titanium topstitch needle (their thread guide suggests a #70 or #80), as well as running the machine much more slowly than I’m used to, which is playing havoc with my stitch length consistency. It’s improving, but problems like this can drain away one’s motivation, and of course with all the ripping and adjusting, it’s taking forever. I’ll post a picture when it’s finished.
All this quilting, with its attendant ups and downs, will hopefully not only prepare me for Quilting with Machines, but also for quilting Ruby Wedding. I haven’t basted it yet (it’s 90″ square, thus presenting some logistical challenges) but I’ve pieced the back and made the binding, so I’m getting there. I think I’ve even made most of the design decisions for it. At this point, it’s really just a question of confidence: I’m so happy with how the top turned out that I want to make sure my quilting enhances, rather than detracts from, the beauty of the top. Hopefully all this intensive quilting will help build that confidence, because there’s nothing to it but to do it.
You know how sometimes, when you need to call or write a friend you’ve been out of touch with for a while, you catch yourself putting it off because there’s so much to say? Yet the longer you put it off, the more there is to cover, and you dig yourself a little deeper.
That’s where I’ve been with this blog. I’ve been back from Arkansas for almost a month, my guild show has come and gone, and each time I think about posting to the blog I think, Oh, but I still haven’t posted about the quilt shop in Arkansas, or the lecture and exhibit I went to at the Allentown Art Museum, or winning my first-ever blue ribbon, or going to New York City…
You see where I’m going with this. I’ve been doing the same thing with the blog lately that I’ve been doing with my UFOs, allowing the accumulated psychological weight of my perceived to-do list to paralyze me into inactivity. So perhaps I need to take a more measured approach to the blog, the way I’ve been attempting to do with the UFOs. Rather than trying to get all caught up, I’ll start with what I’m doing now. If I can manage to go “back in time” and catch up, great; if not, at least I’m not digging myself in deeper. Again.
So! What have I been working on lately? Purses! It most likely started here:
As I’ve doubtless mentioned before, I am totally in thrall to the Japanese quilters. I’m amazed by the idea that a culture with no history of quilting (technically, sashiko isn’t quilting, it’s embroidery to decorate and reinforce a single layer of fabric) and certainly no history of decorative patchwork, a culture which was only exposed to American quilting post-WWII, has managed to produce in just the last 60 years a community of quilters of unparalleled creativity and workmanship. I subscribe to two Japanese quilting magazines, Quilts Japan and Patchwork Quilt Tsushin, and am always happy for opportunities to see Japanese quilts in person. I love the design esthetic: the frequently muted colors (especially taupes!), the artful assymetries, the use of fabric printed with English or French text as purely a textural element much in the same way we use Chinese or Japanese logographic characters for decoration. Here we see the quintessential American craft, that is ours the same way jazz and rock and roll are, reinterpreted through a foreign lens in a breathtakingly beautiful fashion.
So every time I’m in or near New York City, I stop at Kinokuniya bookstore, located right across the street from Bryant Park, where they put on the Fashion Week shows (Hi, Tim Gunn!) and Sanseido bookstore, located in the Mitsuwa marketplace in Edgewater, NJ. There I spend some very happy hours browsing through quilt books that I can’t read, but the photographs are stunning and the directions have very helpful diagrams. Both the books and magazines are for me primarily sources of inspiration, rather than patterns I plan to follow faithfully, but I think I’d do OK once I converted all the measurements from metric to English, if I decided I had to make something exactly the way it appeared. I didn’t plan to just buy purse books, but these were the items that attracted me the most.
Then, hard on the heels of my NYC trip were several family birthdays. One of my sisters, when I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, said, “Oh please, don’t buy me anything.” I decided to honor the letter of the law, rather than the spirit, and made her a purse. Technically, the only thing I bought were the zippers and interfacing. She apparently forgives me this transgression, because she loved the purse:
She and her family are big Star Wars fans, even having attended the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, so I couldn’t think of a worthier recipient for something made from some of my precious vintage Star Wars fabric. My friend Joan was generous enough to share this with me last month, after I had quite openly coveted it at our guild retreat in December. She had bought the fabric when it was in the stores after Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, held onto it all these years, then made this quilt for her grown son’s “man cave”:
I wound up quite unexpectedly being asked to hold an impromptu “Introduction to Star Wars” lecture at the retreat, explaining the story to those retreat-goers not familiar with it, based on the images in the quilt. (Fortunately, the regulars were all fully cognizant of what a big giant nerd I am, so I wasn’t outing myself.) It felt pretty much exactly like this:
(I couldn’t find a version of this scene without the added comedy title and subtitles, but you get the idea.)
So the purse is the Huntington Hobo by Pink Sand Beach Designs, and the directions were wonderful. Even the zippers were easy to do with her photos and instructions. The only drawback is that I wish I’d had a better quality zipper for the top opening; the big metal one from JoAnn’s hangs up too much. Hopefully as my sister uses the bag and possibly waxes the zipper, it will work more easily, but overall I have to call this one a great success. Which is good, since another of my sisters has already informed me that I’m permitted to make one, sans Star Wars, for her birthday in November.
Then this past weekend, we attended a birthday party for my 12-year-old niece. I got her a DVD she wanted (Up, probably my favorite Pixar movie yet, which is saying a lot) and some fingernail glitter, but I thought it would be fun to make her a purse as well:
This is Geisha Girl by Purse Strings, and the directions were great right up until it came time to put in the zipper. I’ll definitely make this purse again, and I’ll have to play with the zipper instructions then, but they just weren’t speaking to me this time, so I left the zipper out. But it turned out SOOOO CUTE! She was very happy with it. I wish I could have taken it to show and tell, but I missed my guild meeting last week due to an upset stomach — much as I wanted to share the purse, I didn’t want to risk sharing a nasty GI bug! Fortunately it was of short duration.
The skull fabric is called Skullfinity, by (you guessed it) Alexander Henry. I found this at JoAnn Fabrics of all places a couple years ago and bought 6 1/2 yards out of sheer love. (Yay coupons!) I have a Halloween UFO that this should be the back to.
I spent much of Sunday making the bias binding for Ruby Wedding. My parents’ 41st wedding anniversary was yesterday, and while I’m getting no pressure from them, thank goodness, I’m feeling the guilt considering the quilt is now a full year late. I haven’t basted it yet, but knowing the binding is there waiting for me somehow makes it easier to embark on the huge intimidating project that quilting this quilt represents. That’s what’s next…
(I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this topic, but suffice to say that ever since Boing Boing pointed me toward Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project”, I’ve thought about making happiness, my own and that of my family, friends, and coworkers, the subject of my Lenten efforts for this year. Quilting makes me happy, but I’ve spent too much time here already talking about the anxiety- and guilt-ridden aspects of it. Without turning into Pollyanna, I wanted to make sure I also made some unmitigatedly optimistic posts here. The subject for the first one presented itself immediately.)
I’m back from my EGA retreat; I had a great time, as always. Retreats are an amazingly productive experience for me because it’s such a completely supportive environment to work in. I don’t have children, and I’m frequently home by myself, so some would wonder why on earth I would pay money to have to pack my clothes and all my supplies, hoping I didn’t accidentally leave anything crucial at home 45 minutes away, to sleep on a strange bed and sit in a room for a weekend, doing exactly the same hobbies that I could have done at home for free. Yet at least three times a year, I do exactly that. Here’s why:
1) Focus: Most people can certainly understand why women with children living at home like coming to the occasional retreat; it’s basically a vacation from the normal demands of a family, where one can concentrate on pursuing hobbies that one doesn’t always have time for. But what about the rest of us? Why would we want to work on a folding table under fluorescent lights when we have perfectly good studios at home? For me, it comes down to focus. Even if there are no other humans making demands on my time, when I’m in my own home, the house itself pulls at me. I should be doing laundry, or organizing the mail, or sweeping the kitchen floor. Even if I manage to resist the siren call of housework (which I somehow find the fortitude to do on a far-too-regular basis) there are all the alternate distractions: books, magazines, TV, the phone, the internet, dozens of little pastimes that seem innocuous one by one but can collectively whittle down a full open day of opportunity into a few frantic minutes. At retreat, I’m wearing blinders. All I have is what I brought with me, and despite the welcome and inevitable socializing, eating, and show-and-tell, I can concentrate on my work to the exclusion of everything else.
2) Inspiration: The best thing about retreat is that it places me in a roomful of people who get it. We may not all be friends; in some cases we’ve never even met, but we share a common bond in that we all find quilting or needlework or rubber stamping or what have you to be important enough to our senses of self that we’re taking an entire weekend out of our busy lives to devote to it. Being in that sort of environment is different from any other aspect of my life; I imagine it to be analogous to an immigrant’s gathering with others who hail from the same country. Here are people who share my culture and speak my language, and I don’t have to explain my points of reference. Just breathing the air at retreat seems to ignite a passion for my hobbies, because I get to see the enthusiasm that others bring to it and the beautiful things they create.
3) Cooperation: Having other people near me who are interested in what I’m doing creates some accountability to actually do it. (This is also, in part, why I’m a member of guilds and why I write this blog.) Having company and entertainment also helps me get through the tedious and awkward parts that I might use as an excuse to go downstairs and get sidetracked if I encountered them at home. Fellow retreat-goers are also a great sounding board when I run into trouble or just encounter a conundrum in a project — in fact, they’ll frequently weigh in whether I want them to or not! Seriously, the best way to get at least three-quarters of the attendees at a quilt retreat to surround you is to put a set of blocks up on a design wall, stand back with your arms crossed, and stare. The value of that many sets of eyes when trying to get a set of scrap blocks properly arranged is absolutely beyond measure.
As shown at the top of the post, I brought along “Ruby Wedding” and spent the first several hours I was at the retreat completing the applique. It’s exhilarating and gratifying to have that huge top finished, but I’m a little terrified to quilt it. More on that later. I also worked toward finishing a cross stitch project I had worked on at least 5-6 years ago. I had cross stitched and beaded a set of Nativity figures designed by Mill Hill and had planned to finish them as stuffed stand-up figures I could display on my mantel at Christmastime, but then left them languishing in a ziploc bag in the basement. This weekend, I assembled and stuffed them.
I only got the twisted cording trim attached to the Holy Family figure; I still have eight figures to go. Now that I’ve finished the applique on “Ruby Wedding,” this may need to be my handwork project until they’re complete. As I said in the title, Hooray for Retreats!
As ridiculous amounts of snow continue to hamper my normal going-places lifestyle, I’m trying to make the most of the situation by getting some quilting in. Not only did I finish all the border half-blocks for “Taupe Winding Ways,” thus finishing the piecing for that quilt nearly five years after I started it, but I also assembled the upper half of the quilt top:
It’s very gratifying to see that first of all, it really does look as good as I had initially imagined way back when, and secondly, that my curved piecing skills were pretty solid from the earliest blocks. I was concerned that there would be an obvious quality gradient from the first blocks to the most recent ones, but while I definitely got faster and more consistent with experience, I was enough of a perfectionist with this project all along that the differences aren’t obvious.
I’ve also been working on the applique to finish the border corners on my parents’ “Ruby Wedding” quilt. Trying to do decent-looking hand applique on a queen-size quilt top is not particularly pleasant. I’m holding myself to the same standards of stitch size and invisibility while trying to maneuver this giant weighty bulk that doesn’t let me keep the left-hand grasp where I want it. I learned hand applique largely from the Piece o’Cake DVD, so I really emphasize the position of my left thumb as the determinant of how long my stitches are and where they come out. I should probably ask around among the hand applique types at guild to see if there’s a better way to manage a situation where your background is HUGE. But I finished the third corner the other night while watching “The Cutting Edge” in lieu of the actual Olympic coverage. (Don’t judge me. I love that movie, cheesy ’80s soundtrack and all. ”Toe pick!”)
This weekend I am attending my Embroiderers’ Guild annual retreat, where I started the hand applique for this quilt last year. Perhaps in the interests of symmetry I’ll bring it along to finish; perhaps in the interests of not lugging that beast around with me, I won’t. We’ll see.
I have also sent out “Kyoto Ink” and “Blue Butterfly Day” to Quilt Fest of New Jersey. Having had the experience of mailing out “Watching the Wheels” to Quilt Odyssey last summer, I was a little more prepared for the mailing checklist, but I still wound up sewing the additional name/ address/ phone number label onto “Blue Butterfly Day” while sitting in a booth at the Maple Donuts next to the UPS store. I took the quilts to the office (where there are no cats) and went through nearly a full roll of Scotch lint roller adhesive things removing cat hair before bagging the quilts up to send; this experience had me Googling “sphynx cat rescues.”
I always panic when I have to mail a quilt, but I know it’s an unavoidable aspect of showing quilts, unless I want to become some sort of manic quilt chauffeur. UPS lets me virtually stalk the quilts’ progress through the online tracking, but there’s always the possibility that something devastating could happen. I have to remind myself that, first of all, the quilts are just things. They are things that I made with my hands and I’m therefore inordinately proud of them, but they are just things. If they were lost, stolen, or destroyed, I would be sad, but I would persevere. It is worth the risk in order to be able to display them in shows. I have enjoyed attending quilt shows for years, and have certainly benefitted from the willingness of quilters from all over the world to let me view their work. It’s my turn to take part and enjoy both the compliments and the criticism, and if that means I have to spend a few days with my heart in my throat while the quilts are in transit and out of my control, so be it.
Today is my first day since Feb. 5 driving my car! We got it out yesterday afternoon (then got it stuck again yesterday evening) but I am now once again a member of the driving population and mistress of my own comings and goings. At least the last time I was stranded carless due to snow, I was living in a major city with subways; this was a whole different animal (probably a yeti.) So I can definitely, and gratefully, attend my quilt guild meeting tonight without having to impose on anyone. Hooray.